After the pending summer break, optometry students returning to embark on their second year of studies will also be facing the crucial task of applying for their pre-registration placement.
While some students will be successful at securing a placement before they commence the final year, others may still be searching for placements days before their graduation ceremony – it can differ from individual to individual depending on the setting and location they wish to complete their placement in.
For students applying to complete their placement with one of the High Street multiples, the initial step of the application process will be securing a summer placement with the company they wish to join.
In order for students to increase their chances of being invited to an interview for a summer placement and to allow them to better understand the application process, I would advise them to ensure that they meet the multiple’s recruitment team when they visit each university between September to December.
What makes a good application?
A lot of applicants spend hours perfecting their CV, and although the CV is an important part of the application, a supporting cover letter is what initially gives employers a flavour of an application and increases the applicant’s chances of landing an interview.
In the cover letter the applicant should outline their motives, values and enthusiasm regarding the pre-registration or summer placement that they are applying for. They should also include why they are applying to the company, as well as the reasons for applying for that particular placement.
Each cover letter should be tailored to a particular practice, company or hospital, which allows the applicant to show the employer that they have spent some time researching the company before applying. Researching the placement and what it involves also provides the applicant with a better insight into what will be expected of them.
It goes without saying that before sending any application, it is vital to double check what is written and get a friend to proof read the application for any potential spelling and grammar errors. University careers departments, or even lecturers, are normally happy to read potential applications and provide constructive feedback.
A top tip I would give is to allow your own style to come across in your cover letter and CV because it expresses your professional attitude to the employer. While there are many cover letter and CV templates and examples available online, and it may be tempting to use them as a baseline, employers will be able to tell the difference between applications so I would advise against it.
"It is important to stay positive and keep searching. Whether this means attending several interviews, accepting several rejections, going for more than one trial day, waiting for replies and attending stores in person, just keep searching"
The interview can be a daunting experience for many. However, in my experience, I have found it important to stay calm and be yourself.
Employers are not looking for someone who has the most rehearsed answers – although this shows that a candidate has prepared well, it does not reflect their motives, attitudes and personality. The interview is a person’s golden opportunity to demonstrate their passion and enthusiasm about working for that employer.
For undergraduates applying to the multiples, initial interviews for summer placements are group interviews. During this group interview process, the recruitment teams are looking for students who participate during the different activities, but also those who respect the opinions and ideas of others. Most importantly, they are looking for students who can work effectively in a team and show leadership at the same time.
The group interviews will test many skills such as communication, leadership, ability to work in restricted time conditions and the ability to ‘think outside the box.’ For such interviews, it is important to understand the task given, stay focused and enjoy yourself since at the end of the day it is something you will learn from.
Group interviews are also common for students applying for hospital placements, although the application process is very different and students should visit the JCL Consulting website for more information.
Five tips on the application process
- Students should apply to as many stores as possible, especially if they want to complete their placement in a branch close to home. Birmingham, Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire and central London are the locations where a lot of students will apply and therefore it is essential for all students to be flexible in their location choice as there is no guarantee of applicants securing a placement in their desired location
- Be proactive when searching for a placement. Students should send off a postal application with a CV, cover letter and supporting documents for every application they make. Stores usually reply back within three to four weeks. However, it is not unusual for applications to not reach the store directors initially and therefore it is important for students to follow up their application with a call
- Visit stores. Instead of sending off a postal application, students will benefit from visiting the stores in person and speaking to the managers, or even directors – this shows the person to be enthusiastic about working for that store
- Carry out work experience. Before applying for pre-reg placements, and even summer placements, I would strongly recommend carrying out work experience in many optical practices. This allows students to gain an understanding of the industry and also gives them a better chance of landing an interview. Many employers will look for previous optical experience when assessing applications
- Never give up. Some students will be successful in securing a pre-reg placement directly after their summer placements or at a practice where they have worked previously, while others may not. It is important to stay positive and keep searching. Whether this means attending several interviews, accepting several rejections, going for more than one trial day, waiting for replies and attending stores in person, just keep searching.
I hope this article has provided some useful insight into the application process and good luck to all students on the next step of your undergraduate studies.